Valentine's Day isn't a big holiday around my house. In fact, it's not a holiday, period. At most, it's a source of irritation for my wife, who's one of the most romantic people I know -- this weekend, she watched You've Got Mail for the 703rd time and still got misty -- yet completely immune to the peer pressure that February 14 applies to the populace. And that only makes me love her more.
As far as I know, my beloved's anti-Valentine's Day sentiment wasn't inspired by some childhood trauma -- that cute guy in third grade pretending to kiss her before running over her flip-flop-clad foot with his Schwinn, for instance. But over the years, plenty of events have reinforced her antipathy. As a career educator, she's come to view Valentine's Day as an eight-hour sentence to unrelenting stress, as kids revved up on cupcakes and candy hearts (and, in some cases, boiling hormones) bounce off each other like atoms on the verge of splitting and exploding.
Embracing mushiness in that environment isn't only difficult. It could be fatal.
Granted, her dismissal of Valentine's Day as a "Hallmark holiday" is a bit dated. (Did you know that couples used to give each other mass-manufactured declarations of affection printed on heavy-stock paper rather than clicking to send an e-card? If not, flip open your history book to the chapter entitled "The Death of the DVD and Other Vintage Anachronisms.") But the phrase captures her view that love isn't something that should only be declared once a year, on a predetermined date that serves as a marketing tool for companies that only care about your passion if they can profit from it. We say "I love you" to each other multiple times each day, from before the sun rises to long after it sets. No need to get a prompt from the calendar.
During the early years of our marriage, I admit to fearing that her oft-expressed aggravation with Valentine's Day was a sitcom-like ruse -- that if I did nothing to commemorate the occasion, as she requested, she'd burst into tears that evening, certain that I didn't love her because I hadn't invested in a bouquet of flowers that cost more than our weekly food budget. But as the decades rolled past (we celebrated our 28th anniversary on February 3), these suspicions evaporated. Now, when I speed through commercials telling me I need to purchase some jewel-encrusted bauble to remind her of our lifetime investment in each other, I'm not overcome by nervousness or guilt. Instead, I feel even luckier than I do every other day we spend together.
Which is why I was surprised last night, when she suggested that we do something special to mark this Valentine's Day. Fortunately, though, her idea involved going to McDonald's and ordering a couple of Shamrock Shakes -- treats inspired by another holiday named for a saint, albeit one whose legend is inextricably linked with snakes.
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